Vaughan faces test of nerve in 'English sport's toughest job'

Jon Culley
Thursday 12 September 2013 05:07
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It may be unrealistic to expect Nasser Hussain to make an immediate return to prolific run-scoring form when he takes guard as just another batsman in the second Test at Lord's on Thursday but there is no doubt that the former captain will feel a massive weight lifted from his shoulders.

Handing over the armband had immediate benefits for Michael Atherton when he returned as a mere player in 1998, England's longest-serving leader making a century against South Africa at Edgbaston.

John Emburey, himself a former England captain, says Hussain's successor, Michael Vaughan, is taking on "the toughest job in English sport". "Michael will need to show character and have a very thick skin," he said. "Opponents will single him out as a target and people will be on his back when things start to go wrong."

Emburey added: "There had been a lot of pressure on Nasser lately. He wanted to lead the side against South Africa but he also wants to carry on as a Test player. He has intimated that he wants to complete 100 Tests. If he had continued as captain and England had done badly against South Africa, he might have lost both jobs."

Keith Fletcher, another former England captain and counsel to many others, has known Hussain since he was a 10-year-old. He was "surprised by the timing" of the decision but could understand Hussain's desire to step down. "Nasser has been in charge for more than four years, he had come through a difficult winter and maybe he was feeling tired," he said. "The job can be very draining and the pressure takes its toll."

Fletcher added: "How long you can stay in the job and retain your enthusiasm varies from person to person. For Steve Waugh it must be an absolute doddle but it is not quite the same when you're in charge of the England team. You might have two or three players you can look towards to get you out of trouble but someone like Steve Waugh has 11. An England captain really has to work hard to get the best out of his players, and his decisions in the field are critical because he doesn't have people to bale him out if things go wrong.

"Vaughan will find it as difficult as anyone when he comes up against the Australians. In the meantime, the thing he will have to learn quickly is to keep his two jobs - as captain and opening batsman - quite separate. The last thing he needs to do is to go out to bat worrying about whether he is making the right decisions as captain."

Fletcher believes Vaughan's presence in Hussain's Test dressing-room will have been a factor in persuading his predecessor to stand down. "Having two captains, for the one-dayers and the Tests, can work. But Nasser will probably have been feeling less pressure if the one-day captain was not also a key member of the five-day side.

"If he was feeling under any pressure, it will have been the pressure he was putting on himself knowing he was coming back into a side who had got used to someone else's way of doing things. I do know that he will have given it a lot of thought. The timing was a surprise but you have to give the bloke credit for making a brave decision. Other people might have carried on to see what would happen but he clearly felt it was time to stand aside."

Emburey is backing Vaughan to be a success in the job. "I was coach to the England A tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa when he was captain and he took to it like a duck to water," Emburey said. "He had the respect of the players and was determined to do well. Many of the young players in the England squad now were on that tour and they looked up to Michael.

"The captaincy can affect a player's form but with guys like Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton, their own game prospered and I feel Michael can be similar. He will have to show a lot of character, of course, and a thick skin. As England's most prolific batsman he is already targeted by the opposition and he will find that even more now as captain. They will try to make him feel down in any way they can.

"But he has got that bit of character, even though he may not always show it. He has a nice smile and an easy-going manner but there is a steely determination about him. I believe his appointment is the best thing that could happen to England at this time.

"Having said that, I believe Nasser deserves nothing but praise. When he was appointed, the side needed discipline and some steeliness where it had been lacking before. He was just the right man for the job and he did it really well."

CHANGING THE GUARD: PLAYERS GIVE THEIR REACTION TO A NEW ERA FOR ENGLISH CRICKET

ALEC STEWART England wicketkeeper and former captain

On Hussain: "He's the best captain I've played under tactically and he has had the respect of the players throughout his time as captain. He's a very open and honest person."

On Vaughan: "He is a fine opening batsman who has the respect of the other members of the squad and I'm sure everyone will wish him all the best in the job."

ASHLEY GILES England's left-arm spinner

On Hussain: "Everybody knows how much the captaincy meant to Nasser. To give it up was a huge decision for him. He's a hard captain but I enjoyed playing under him."

On Vaughan: "The one thing we don't want is for his duties as captain to interfere with his batting because, as he proved at Edgbaston, he has become a crucial player for England."

MIKE GATTING Former England captain

On Hussain: "When you start feeling you are tired and stale, it is time to go. The man in charge has to be bubbling if you want the players to respond."

On Vaughan: "He will not be under too much pressure. He has just come through his first appointment, in the one-dayers, on a high and now he has scored 156 in a Test match."

JASON GALLIAN Nottinghamshire captain

On Hussain: "I thought he would be captain for the whole series against South Africa but if he felt he was getting stale perhaps he was worried we would lose the series as a result."

On Vaughan: "I have been on tours with him and he comes across as very relaxed but he has earned respect through his batting and the authority needed will come if he is successful."

GRAEME SMITH South African captain

On Hussain: "I didn't expect it to happen. But Nasser obviously felt for him to step down at this stage was the best way forward for the England side."

On Vaughan: "Being captain definitely places a little bit more pressure on him. He has just been playing as a batsman, so he will have more to think about."

JAMES ANDERSON England fast bowler

On Hussain: "A lot of the team have played with Nasser for a few years. They know him well so it was quite a sad moment when he announced he was stepping down."

On Vaughan: "Nasser admired the way Vaughan captained in the one-dayers. He saw the energy and the amount we enjoyed it and I think he thought it was time for a change."

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